Defining Home

February 12, 2009

Home. Going Home. Coming Home. Making a home. A word that has multiple meanings and intense emotions. Home has been on my brain and in my recent reading. I decided to participate in my first on-line book challenge. Basically, it means I read and review three books that fit this criteria. I have put off taking part in these "challenges" because it just seemed like too much pressure, too much obligation, but I have enjoyed seeing what others have been reading during this particular challenge. It turns out that my two most recent reads fit the criteria for the challenge and also seem to have some interesting connections in spite of their obvious generational and cultural differences.

I noticed Maya Angelou's book Letter to My Daughter sitting on the preschool director's desk. It was hard to miss the brightly colored mosaic on the cover. She let me borrow the book and I quickly gobbled it up (mostly because of the content, but as I started reading I realized that there is quite a bit of "filler"..empty pages between essays which give the illusion that it is a thicker volume). A series of essays/lessons that she shares as a collective gift to her "daughters" (all women). My favorite essay in the collection is the opening one about home, especially these words:

Thomas Wolfe warned in the title of America's great novel that "you can't go home again." I enjoyed the book but I never agreed with the title. I believe that one can never leave home. I believe one carries the shadows, the dreams, the fears and dragons of home under one's skin, at the extreme corners of one's eyes and possibly in the gristle of the earlobe (p.6).

With this opening essay on home, Angelou sets the stage for a collection of essays which are essentially glimpses into some of her own "gristle". An interesting and beautiful read but it left me wanting more and felt as if it ended too abruptly. Like Angelou, the narrator of A Map of Home also attempts to define "home" while examining the bits and pieces of her childhood. Nidali's mother is Greek-Egyptian, her father is Palestinian and she spent most of her childhood in Kuwait until the outbreak of the first Gulf War which ultimately resulted in a move to Texas. The novel is essentially a coming of age novel with the backdrop of war, intense cultural transitions and collisions, and the angst of adolescence. At times funny, gritty, heartbreaking and very hard to put down. A wonderful debut novel by Randa Jarrar. Here's what Nidali's father has to say about home:

There's no telling where home starts and where it ends (p. 193).

Home is a tricky thing to define but it's interesting to view it through different lenses. I'd recommend both of these books.
Karen said...

Oh my list of must reads is growing by the day. Seriously wanting the Kindle for a b-day present! I love holding books, but my love of consumption isn't currently being met (I've been waiting 5 weeks for some books I ordered and the library is closed, without notice, for 3 weeks!!). I'm desperate for some reading material and will forgo an actual book just to get it!

Have you ever found a place to download books without buying the Amazon Kindle??

Melissa said...

I should read some Maya Angelou, and since I'm not a poetry person, maybe this is the place to start? Also, A Map of Home sounds wonderful. Thanks for joining up!! :)

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